Cosmic Break Up - April 18 to 20, 2006
When scientists reserve time to use the Hubble, they can point the telescope in almost any direction, even toward our own neighborhood. In 2006, Hubble was used to photograph a disintegrating comet called Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, discovered in 1930. Every 16 years, the comet flies near Earth, leaving a trail of dust and ice in its wake. The Hubble pictures show several dozen "mini-comets” trailing behind the eight main fragments. The comet is falling apart in house-size chunks due to the heat and gravity of the Sun.